Veteran Edwardian Vintage, August 1977

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A section devoted to old-car matters

The Brooklands Re-Union

The Brooklands Society’s annual Re-Union took place on June 26th, in this 70th Anniversary Year of the opening of the Weybridge Track. The one-time Brooklands slogan, “The Right Crowd and No Crowding”, seemed almost to be reversed, for so many people attended that the great cavalcade of vehicles, crossing in the afternoon from the Paddock to the Aerodrome, took so long to disperse that the demonstration runs up and down the Runway started over an hour late. As the Re-Union was open only to BS members and their guests, the public not being admitted, it must be concluded that the Society consists of very friendly people!

Inside the ancient precincts modern cars were separated from veteran, vintage and pre-war cars, with the true racing cars inside what may be called the Inner Paddock, outside the historic Clubhouse. The last-named included Bob Robert’s Napier-Railton, the lap-record holder, beautifully restored to original condition (although I note that it retains the disc rear brakes fitted in its parachute-testing days), the Multi-Union, “Babs”, the NMM’s 350 h.p. Sunbeam, and Ferranti’s road-equipped Type 59 3.8 GP Bugatti in row 1, two ERAs, de Cadenet’s P3 Alfa Romeo, Peter Moore’s s.v. single-seater Austin 7 rebuild, and Russ-Turner’s blower-4 1/2 ex-Birkin Bentley in row 2, the 1914 Opel, an ex-Dixon 2-litre Riley, a racing Morgan, Smith’s K3 MG Magnette, the Straker-Squire and the 1914 OP Mercedes in row 3, and a couple of Amilcar Sixes, the 1912 chain-drive Bugatti, Dunham’s Alvis, an MG Midget, the White Riley, a racing Austin 7 and a model electric GP Bugatti in row 4, with Grist’s 1922 GP Sunbeam and Crowley Milling’s 3-litre ex-Dunfee 1920 straight-eight Ballot, on b.e. tyres with the spare wheel in the tail, joining in later. The Ballot was the outstanding of these ex-Brooklands’ racing cars, in my opinion. But I found myself wondering whether the Napier-Railton would win the Concours d’Elegance, as it had the Appearance Prize at the 1934 Easter Meeting … Incidentally, the 350 h.p. V12 Sunbeam had beside it the longer remains of the longer tail used by Sir Malcolm Campbell for LSR runs. Its mechanic told me that it has now got a differential, which answers a current conundrum, but that it is not a runner which is a crying shame.

There were many more racing cars with close Brooklands’ associations and many historic racing motorcycles present, and the “ordinary” cars were of infinite variety, embracing 1910 Star, 1920 Buick tourer, Wolseley Hornet, Zedel, a tine line-up of Morgan 3-wheelers, the famous Talbot BGH23, a “new” GN, a neat Ford 8 saloon, three Riley Gamecocks, a model-T Ford, a Dennis ‘bus, a rare 2-litre Ballot, even a Rytecraft Scotta-Car. But, as at Ascot, the assembly was so immense that it is impossible to report it in detail. The huge crowds also made it difficult to spot the many Brooklands celebrities present. But let me tell you that one of the St. Johns Ambulance ladies told me that she went to Brooklands as a girl, being the daughter of T. B. Andre’s partner (she still remembered those Telecontrol shock-absorbers) and that I met T. E. Jones, who worked on the various Bolster Specials and who showed me a photograph of John Bolster’s four-engined Bolster-JAP in the Brooklands’ Paddock at the Easter 1939 Meeting. And a representative of the Land Agents for the West Side site, which Brooklands Track Ltd. has thought of acquiring (£15 million; rates over £500,000 per annum) was in attendance, arriving in a white Ford Cortina GL saloon.

The morning of this fine Sunday was occupied with a great many ascents of the Test Hill, now cleared of debris by the more energetic members of the Brooklands Society, but looking pastoral than it did in pre-war days. The assaults were opened by Dudley Gahagan, who took Society President T. A. S. O. Mathieson, from Paris for the occasion, Vice-President Alan Hess; and the Brooklands’ Sunbeam driver E, L. Bouts up, in his Type 57 Bugatti. After which all and sundry had a go. A Morgan made a racing ascent but stopped, as did an Alvis Firebird. There were fast climbs by 30/98 Vauxhalls, Bentleys and Frazer Nashes, one 4 1/2-litre Bentley having its passenger in the back seat, and Tony Jones taking his family up in his touring 30/98 Vauxhall. Wilcox’s smoky 8-litre Bentley raised the first applause, by its rapid ascent, and and cheers greeted the vee-twin Baughan cyclecar, as it crawled to the summit. Stafford East went up in his 200 Mile Race GN with L. A. Cushman, who used to administer to the racing GN engines, as his passenger, but Chris Mann broke up the differential in his Monza Alfa Romeo. Curious that such difficulties intruded, without the re-start on the hill that had been used in the VSCC driving-tests. The ex-Brooklands Straker-Squire had no bother but the commentator missed the opportunity of telling us that this car had set the Test Hill record to 25.41 m.p.h. in 1920, when driven by Bertie Kensington Moir. Other cars failed, some in dense clouds of clutch smoke but the giant Metallurgique-Maybach had no trouble, perhaps because its clutch had received some attention the night before. An SS100 went up very slowly.

The lunch break was a drawn-out affair, although it was a nice touch to have Edith Carlisle, once the landlady of the “Hand & Spear”, serving Ind Coope beers in the catering building. The delay was accentuated because when the move to the Aerodrome was due, lots of cars went left towards the Wey Bridge, only to find it closed, and because the ‘bus taking pilots back to their aeroplanes, who this year had been permitted to fly-in, took a long time turning round amid all the congestion. And what a pity more notice was not taken of the light aeroplanes present, which included at least one Tiger Moth… The numbers of visitors present, inspite of the long queue, were estimated by one observer to be smaller than last year, when the oppressive heat might have been expected to have turned people away. This makes me wonder whether a whole day spent watching solo-ascents of the Test Hill and single runs up and down a distant Runway (paired drag-races being forbidden this time) is palling, on those who have no ex-Brooklands’ friends to meet to add spice to the Re-Union.

Eventually the long traffic-jam, led by Tony Jones’ 30/98, was sorted out and the high-speed runs began. Bob Roberts was making very good use of the Napier-Railton on its first public appearance since its meticulous rebuild. Douglas FitzPatrick had the 21-litre Metallurgique so wound up that he took to the grass when trying to stop at the Byfleet-end of the course, as did Adrian Liddell in the Straker Squire, which had a flat as rear tyre. Grist carefully adjusted the GP Sunbeam’s oil drip-feeds before starting, presumably the back tyres on Milligen’s 38/250 SSK Mercedes-Benz would have passed the Scrutineer, and it was nice to see de Cadenet start his monoposto Alfa Romeo with one pull-up of the handle. When I remarked to him that this must seem a very brief “motor race” after Le Mans he said yes, but that he was proud to be at Brooklands. After his run he turned onto the old Aerodrome road to go back to the Paddock very smartly, sliding the Alfa’s tail. “Babs”, still unclothed, was off-form, a poor return to Wyn Owen for hauling it all the way from North Wales behind a Land Rover. Again, there was ample variety, from Nigel Arnold-Forstcr’s 1912 5-litre Bugatti to Betty Haig driving the 328 BMW which she fetched from the factory in 1938 and has owned ever since. But the hoped-for 8-litre Panhard and the Fiat “Mephistopheles,” etc. did not materialise. The day concluded with the departure of the aeroplanes and a splendid take-off and fly-past by the Hon. Patrick Lindsay in his Rolls-Royce-engined Supermarine Spitfire. N.B. We hear that the Concours d’Elegance was won by W. A. L. Cook, (Rolls-Royce), the Concours d’Etat by J. B. Lyndhurst’s 6-cylinder Amilcar, and a spokesman for the Society has quoted the attendances as 8,000.

* * *

V-E-V Miscellany.

– The 30/98 Vauxhall Register has produced a comprehensive record of all known existing Vauxhalls of this type, the World over, with brief details and present and former owners of each. Copies are available to bona fide enquiries at £3 each; apply to David Marsh, The Garden House, Middletonby-Youlgreave, near Bakewell, Derbyshire. This Register shows a grand total of 169 E-types and OE-types, of which there are 58 OEs, 18 Es and four Specials in the UK. Marsh points out that this represents a survival rate of around 29%, as it is thought that all known 30/98s in the UK have been accounted for and that there is none in Europe; a one-make record unequalled except perhaps by the Bugatti OC. We regret to learn of the death of Major W. T. Pitt of Lenham, who owned an Alfonso Hispano-Suiza, a 1913 16/20 Wolseley, and a Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce. A nice idea – the Huntingdon Police were hoping to have some police-type cars at their Gala Day last June which marked the retirement of the Chief Constable of Mid-Anglia; the Wolseley Register was hoping to oblige. We are now informed that the long-distance records taken by the Austin 7 Replica Ulster at Goodwood were the British class 1,000 mile and 5,000 kilometre records, respectively at 53.89 m.p.h. and 54.02 m.p.h. and that the RAC has since discovered that the car also took the British class 24-hour record but has not yet quoted the speed. There is to be another attempt, on the 10,000-mile record, from September 20th-29th.

The 1927 Chrysler roadster owned by a Russian lady of 71 who lives in London and which we have referred to previously, was auctioned recently after it was said to have run 400,000 miles, including two trips across the Sahara. ROC Lubricants Ltd. of Manchester, formerly trading as Germ Lubricants, inform us that the Hon. C. S. Rolls was not only a customer but was a personal friend of H. M. Wells who founded the Company. It seems that Rolls used Wells-Lucas oil, supplied by Germ, in his Panhard-Levassor during the 1,000-Mile Trial of 1900. Mr. Wells owned a single-cylinder De Dion Bouton, bought in that year for £122 18s. He lived to be 83, having, as a Company publication nicely expresses it, “completed his earthly assignment” in 1949. The Wolseley Hornet Special Club cleverly used a reproduction of part of The Autocar Royal Silver Jubilee number of 1935 for its Spring magazine, as this was not only a topical gesture but that issue contained much Wolseley Hornet material. W. B.